Jake Cantreaux straddled his motorcycle and prepared to yell again.
“Let him come to the door like a proper gentleman”, her mother admonished.
Annie flew out the door without a comment. Jake didn't need to be proper. He just needed to be there. He'd always dated the popular girls. Annie had never had a date. On the first day of their senior year, he'd entered the bookkeeping class and sat at the desk next to her's. He smiled at her, then winked. Nothing more. The second day was a repeat of the first. On the third, he asked her to join him for lunch. Annie did not say no. What girl would?
“Late for what?”
“Can't say. You'll have to wait and see.”
She hopped on and put her arms around his waist. Jake was always surprising her. He had from the start. He looked like a rich kid, but lived in a deteriorating bungalow with his alcoholic father. He worked for the clothes on his back and the bike that he'd lovingly restored. She'd known he was a star athlete, but not that he was an A student. She expected him to win an athletic scholarship and he'd had a couple of offers. But Jake planned on being a CPA and hoped for an academic scholarship. He played the piano and the saxophone. She played the clarinet. Neither had wanted to join the school band, but enjoyed hours of making music together. They enjoyed quiet times. They sat together reading books or strolled along wooded paths without the need to say a word. She hadn't expected the relationship to last. But it had. Of course, it was going to end. Graduation was just two months away. Soon she'd be looking for her first job and he'd be leaving for college. He'd had several offers, but hadn't made a decision. All were hours away from this little town.
She wondered where they were going. They passed the town boundaries and headed into the countryside. The only thing in this direction was their river spot. Yes, that was it. Late for the river? Jake was such a tease. But Annie didn't care, she loved to be alone with him. He turned off the road onto a narrow path that led into the woods. He slowed the cycle, carefully negotiating obstacles along the pathway. Finally it opened into the clearing. He helped her off and took her hand, heading towards the large flat rock that overlooked the river. They sat for a few moments in silence. Annie began to worry. Was he going to end it here? Say goodbye before college forced the issue? She struggled to stay calm.
Jake pulled an envelope out of his pocket, removed a letter and handed it to her.
Dear Mr. Cantreau:
Cloughton University is pleased to offer you a position in it's freshman class with a full academic scholarship . . .
“Oh Jake, that's wonderful. Your first choice.”
She was truly pleased for him and she didn't let her smile falter. But the joy left her eyes as she thought about him leaving.
“It's what I'd hoped for. At least part of what I'd hoped for.”
He paused a moment then hung his head, looking uncharacteristically shy.
“It's so far away, Annie, and I don't want to leave you. You're the one I want to spend my life with.”
He pulled a small box from his pocket. “I wish it could be more. Marry me, Annie. I'll make you proud. I'll work hard for you. Someday I'll give you all the things you deserve.”
The diamond was tiny, but to Annie there was none more beautiful. Words stuck in her throat. She nodded her head and thew her arms around his neck.
Her parents said they were far too young. If this was love, they reasoned, it would last while Jake was away at college. Annie turned a deaf ear to their pleas. They graduated in June and were married in July, a few days after Annie's eighteenth birthday. By August, they were living in a tiny apartment near the university. They didn't need much space. An air mattress substituted for a bed. A plastic deck table and chairs with a huge end-of-season discount had been purchased to create a dining/study area. Annie found an entry level bookkeeping position. Jake secured a part time delivery job at a local pizza parlor. Their new life was busy, but they cherished the moments spent together. They restored the sadly neglected apartment and gradually expanded its furnishings. Four years flew by. A month before graduation, Jake was hired by a local accounting firm. In two years he would be eligible to take the CPA certification exam.
With two incomes, Annie was hopeful that they would move to a larger apartment.
“If we get a bigger apartment, we'll spend more money. If we stay here, we could save my income. By the time I pass the CPA, we could have a home. Just think of it, Annie, a permanent place for us. One where we can raise our children.”
Any temptation to argue vanished. Annie had never aspired to a career. She had only wanted to be a wife and mother.
Jake began to make changes. One Saturday evening, he announced that they would attend services at Cloughton Baptist the following day. A couple of partners at the firm were members and Jake wanted to join. He explained that it was part of the image he needed to project. A CPA should be seen as an honest and upstanding citizen. Participation in a local church was a great way to achieve this.
“Don't worry, he grinned. There will still be time for our usual Sunday morning activities.”
The comment brought a blush to her cheek, but helped assure her that nothing had really changed.
Jake started introducing himself as Jacques and asked her to use it as well. He began calling her Bethany. Annie had always been his special nickname for her. She mourned the loss, but chided herself at the same time. He wanted to succeed in his career and she would support him.
Jacques passed his certification exam on the first try. At last they would have a home of their own. But none of the ones in their price range satisfied him.
“We need to consider my image. If we save for one more year, we can afford a home in a better neighborhood.”
It had taken two years, but they finally got the house. Jacques had risen in the firm, recognized for his genius in estate planning. Three other members of the firm lived on the same street. Annie liked the house, although she would have been happy with a more modest dwelling. Still, it would be a wonderful place to raise their children.
Five years later, Bethany Cantreaux stood at the window looking out at the backyard. A spacious patio was surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns and flowers. No toys or small footprints marred it's glorious perfection. Bethany and Jacques had conscientiously practiced birth control from the day that they were married. When they had moved into their home, they agreed that it was time to start their family. They tried unsuccessfully for over two years. Her OB/GYN recommended a complete fertility workup, but Jacques had refused.
“If the Lord wills it, Bethany, we will have a child.”
Bethany had enjoyed the church services, but Jacques had not stopped there. He attended religious classes in the evening and joined several committees. Within two years, he became a church deacon. He no longer spoke of his image. He quoted Biblical verses and advised her of the Lord's will. As if she needed a translator. What she needed was her husband and something to fill her days. Jacques had asked her to stop working and Beth hadn't minded. She'd spent hours planting and tending flowers. Jacques had not like the riotous variety and hired a gardener. She spent time cleaning and decorating the large house. Jacques hired a maid and a designer. She took gourmet cooking classes and prepared exquisite meals. Jacques added a cook to their staff. He did not want his wife performing servile labor, he explained. Bored and unhappy, she searched for a way to fill her days.
Finally, she'd found it. That evening she shared the news with Jacques. Their first child would be born in seven months. With a tenderness she thought he had forgotten, Jacques held her close. “Oh, Annie. How wonderful.” A single tear trickled down his cheek. Her heart raced. This child was going to be the answer. A baby would restore joy and purpose to her life. And, hopefully, it would soften the righteousness that threatened to encase her father.
The pregnancy was easy and an ultrasound predicted a healthy baby girl. Jacques had even let her choose their little girl's name. She spent hours perusing baby name books. She made a choice, but didn't share it. A few months later, the child performed her first act of defiance and appeared a month early. “Perfectly healthy”, the doctor assured them. Bethany was overjoyed. Jacques' happiness matched her own.
“Oh Annie, I love her so much.”
She hugged the baby close and looked up at Jacques.
“Loveable. That's what her name means, Jake. Our little girl's name is Amanda."
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